Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fukushima Nuclear Radiation at the Site is Extremely Dangerous! But How Dangerous is It to You?

I received a good email from a friend warning me about "massive radiation leaking" from  Fukushima. 
I think my friend's mail confuses the issues again. They confuse the real danger faced by those working near the power plant with imagined dangers to us living hundreds of kilometers away.

The letter read:


The situation here at Fukushima is still quite unstable. 
I'd be very worried about the news coming out, if I were you. 
The boys at Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) held a meeting and they announced that there's a huge amount of radioactive material still pouring out of Fukushima.

Several weeks ago, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara even said that 
the government should think about moving the seat of power to Osaka.

Based on the information that the NISA released yesterday, there's a high risk that a
large amount amount of radiation could make its way to Tokyo in another couple of months.

- A friend

Thanks Friend,

If and when the radiation readings here in Tokyo (at non-governmental organizations and universities) see: start to go high, then I will worry. 

Japan's prevailing winds have Tokyo upwind (the prevailing winds blow from the west or south)... It's been that way for a million years... Don't see why that should change anytime soon.

Monsoon season (that starts in about a month) always blows from the Philippines.

Japan has been talking about setting up a shadow government in Osaka since 9/11. This is not news at all.

If you want to read the official NISA press releases. They are always here:

But don't be mistaken, my friend. Things are VERY bad at that nuclear reactor.... The people around there and working there are taking huge risks. But that's the people working there on the site and living around the plant.

Also, at one of my very favorite blogs, Searching for Accurate Maps, which often holds an intelligent and  healthy contrarian view from this blog, I found an interesting article that I thought showed a very leftist idea and misunderstanding of how private businesses work. It complained of the work conditions of those TEPCO employees who are risking their lives and battling it out in a sort of man vs. technology vs. nature real-life drama.

The article quoted Takeshi Tanigawa a professor at Ehime University School of Medicine. The article entitled Nuke workers at risk of overwork death said: 

The workers are also on a poor diet, centering on canned and retort-packed foods, although they can now have three meals a day, up from the initial one daily.
Workers other than senior officials work in shifts of four days on and two days off, but cannot even take a bath during the four workdays despite sweating heavily in impervious radiation-protective gear, Tanigawa said.
“Being unable to feel refreshed, they are not only vulnerable to various diseases and skin disorders but also may commit errors in their work,” Tanigawa warned.
Through interviews with about 30 of them, Tanigawa found that they are heavily stressed not only as a result of the pressure of their jobs but also by being asked by family members not to go to work.
One worker whose home was lost in the disaster felt exposed to negative perceptions in a shelter where the worker spent days off, the doctor said.
“More than 80 percent of the on-site employees have their homes within a 20-km radius of the nuclear plant and some of them have lost family members,” he said, adding that concerns about their houses and lives will likely continue to distress them.”It was also stressful for some workers who were unable to confirm the safety of families for as long as a week to continue working,” he said. “On the other hand, they tend to feel indebted for working for an offending company and so cannot raise their voices.”
About 50 of the workers were diagnosed with illnesses such as high blood pressure and colds, cluding one worker whom he instructed Tepco to replace due to a high fever, he said.
As the crisis continues, with Tepco aiming to stabilize damaged reactors in about six to nine months under a road map released Sunday, the utility must allow workers engaged in the crisis control efforts thus far to take a rest by mobilizing all its employees and asking other power utilities to dispatch workers if its workforce is insufficient, Tanigawa said.

There are so many things that I question about this good doctor's ideas. Since he is a university professor, I would expect him to hold leftist and Socialist ideas. The good doctor was quoted as saying;
 “….and asking other power utilities to dispatch workers if its workforce is insufficient.” I think this is a totally absurd idea and shows that the doctor doesn't understand anything about business. Why in the world would a competing privately-owned company ask its employees to go out and help a competitor? Why would an employee of company "A" risk his life to go help company B, his companies arch-enemy competitor? Not just any competitor: TEPCO the #4 energy related company in the world and the largest in Asia.
Working at a nuclear power plant doesn't even rank in Top 20 Most Dangerous Jobs in America. See below.
When General Motors was near bankruptcy, did anyone float the idea that Toyota should send her engineers over to help out? Of course not. 
The situation is bad for those workers at Fukushima, I’m sure. They are having to eat poor and canned food – just like the people who live in the tsunami destroyed areas. Yes, things are bad all around that area… (To see a short video documentary of the aftermath of the tsunami, the city and the people, see Ishinomaki - Black Water. If that link doesn't work, try this:
This is not an article disrespecting those brave men who are risking their lives now fighting the disaster at Fukushima, but let us consider the source. They knew what they were getting into when they took their job at their employer. Let us not use their unfortunate situation now as just another tool in our anti-nuclear crusade. Yes, things are bad for them. 
But they are fighting for their lives and their families and their livelihoods. They took the job at TEPCO. No one forced them to go work for that company. It's just like the brave men who gave their lives and died when, say the Empire State Building was built. Or the men who risk their lives everyday in coal mines that go miles underground, or men who work on extremely dangerous oil rigging far out over the ocean.
It takes a certain type of person to accept these types of jobs. They get paid accordingly. Complaining about their work conditions as a round-about ruse to attack nuclear power is dishonest. 
These are not the only employees in Japan who overwork themselves to death. Karoshi (deaths from overwork) claims untold numbers of Japanese businessmen every year.

… If they don’t like their job they should quit. I would in a heart beat.
Of course these people cannot raise their voices against the company that they work for. This company, that they chose to work at freely, gave them their livelihoods and helped them pay for their homes. It has helped them to raise families and buy the things that small children want and need… Even people who did not work directly for TEPCO had TEPCO employees as customers, neighbors and friends. In that sense, it is a testament to the pride and stoic nature of the Japanese that these great employees do remain diligent.
It is most unfortunate that a so-called "Act of God" has turned their lives upside down and, in many cases,  wrecked their livelihoods and their families. But now they are fighting to get those lives and families back. Let them do that to the best of their ability. Do not use their current suffering and struggles as an excuse to end it all once the situation - through the strife and toil of their efforts - is contained. 
Here is a list from the Daily Beast of the Top 20 Most Dangerous Jobs in America. See if you can find nuclear plant worker:

#1 Fisherman
#2 Logger
#3 Farmer / Rancher
#4 Structural construction worker
#5 Sanitation Worker
#6 Airline pilot
#7 Roofer
#8  Coal Miner
#9  Merchant mariner
#10 Miller
#11 Power line installer
#12 Police officer
#13 Firefighter
#14 Oil & gas driller
#15 Cement manufacturer
#16 Taxi & limousine driver
#17 Truck driver
#18 Construction equipment operator
#19 Animal slaughterers
#20 Security guard

The point? Keeping a firm grip on reality, facts and relative dangers is the best way to judge a situation for merits and demerits. Using these men's poor current situation as a tool in ulterior motives to attack their livelihood is disingenuous. 

Read more? Is Nuclear Engineer the Most Dangerous Job?

Thanks to Searching for Accurate Maps. Check it out everyday for intelligent and well written discourse.


Poots said...


I love that picture of the workers building the empire state building having their lunch break on a steel girder. A friend of mine has a huge copy of it in his office and I always admire it. Did you notice that the guy on the far right has a bottle of whisky in his right hand? You can see it clearly on the big copy. I wonder what the bed-wetting busy-bodies at OSHA would say about that today...

As to the ‘Top 20 Most Dangerous Jobs in America:’

In 19 of these 20 most dangerous jobs you never hear the people that do them 'voluntarily' demand our undying devotion to them for allegedly 'putting their lives on the line for us’ every day...

I wonder who that ONE group is?...

Here’s a hint: They will taser an 80 year old women to death and then cry that they feared for their safety - waaaaaaaaaaaaaa…

Kevin said...

I've worked 2 of the top 3 most dangerous jobs. Did a stint on a deepsea dragger, and that was the most dangerous work I've ever done. Amputation and instant death were a constant possibility on the rough seas when bringing in or letting out the massive net.

I was a cowboy on my parent's ranch all of my teen years. Once, got bucked of a horse and cracked my head on a pile of fence posts, knocking me out for 10 minutes. I wouldn't trade those cowboy years for anything.

Yes, they were dangerous jobs, but they were my choice.

Anonymous said...

I've done ten of those most dangerous jobs and that photo of the guys eating lunch made me uneasy just thinking of doing it.

And, yup, those ten jobs were my choice.
I quit a job once because of what I saw as a dangerous condition and being too overbearing. OSHA required us to wear hard hat helmets (while working under giant intense heaters) because of overhead crane use. Wearing the helmets practically boiled a person's brain, plus there was the confusion factor and especially the freedom issue. I didn't understand how they could do that, yet do nothing about trying to protect me from falling from 20 feet up in the air. They said that was next.

I tried to tell them I'd even go so far as to sign a waiver of some type but they wouldn't hear of it. I was just fine for the first four months before the new regulations kicked in forcing us to wear them. I guess I wasn't allowed to choose my own acceptable level of danger... That's what those guys at the nuke plant are doing.

Anonymous said...

I would venture to say that TEPCO emergency worker is currently the most dangerous job in Japan at the moment, wouldn't you?

Marc Sheffner said...

Interesting facts, as always. However, just to set the record straight, the issue in my original blog post was not fossil-fuels vs nuclear power, but TEPCO's apparent shoddy treatment of their workers. That is the issue of the article, and of my blog post. Any light you can shed on this would be appreciated. I would be pleasantly surprised, for instance, to hear that TEPCO were just feeding biscuits and fruit-juice to their workers out of solidarity with the rest of tsunami-hit Fukushima (tho I doubt it). I'd like to hear an innocent explanation for why they did not have enough dosimeters to go round and why they did not get extra ones shipped in from Dai-ni plant at least, immediately. And I completely sympathize with Fukushima Governor Sato's expostulation, "I never want to hear the words "sou-tei gai" (beyond expectations) again for as along as I live!"

What it looks like is the people at the top don't care. That may or may not be the truth, but if it's not true, then TEPCO need to fire all their PR people. The poor treatment by TEPCO of these front-line heroes (and that's how they are being seen by much of the country, in my opinion) only adds fuel to the fire of people's anger at having to abandon homes and livelihoods because of the nuclear crisis.

I second Beat Takeshi's proposal (heard on his show about 1 week-10 days after the tsunami) that all the Fukushima TEPCO workers should get the Imperial Medal of Honour or whatever it's called.

Anonymous said...

TEPCO engineer is probably the most dangerous job in Japan at the moment? No. Not according to statistics at Lloyd's of London insurance company.

In Japan? Hmmm? Certainly not more dangerous than coal mining. Just that Japan stopped coal mining in 1978. Just in China alone, according to official Chinese government figures, more than 4,500 coal miners die per year in China alone....